When Reuters reported last week that Republicans and their allies "are mobilizing ... to dissuade uninsured Americans from obtaining health coverage," it caused a bit of a stir. After all, what kind of people would invest time and energy into convincing struggling families to turn down access to affordable health care? Who would be so callous as to put partisan spite over the basic health care needs of their community?
Well, now we know. The Dayton Daily News has hidden the story behind a paywall, but the paper reported yesterday on groups like the "Citizens' Council for Health Freedom," which is rallying behind the "Refuse to Enroll" campaign.
With time running out, opponents of the Affordable Care Act have taken to the airwaves in Ohio and elsewhere with ad campaigns not only attacking the bill's merits but also actively encouraging uninsured Americans not to sign up for coverage under the health care law.
The Obama administration has acknowledged the success of the law, commonly referred to as Obamacare, depends in large part on broad-based participation in federal and state-run health exchanges that will begin selling government-subsidized health plans to the uninsured on Oct. 1.
The anti-enrollment campaigns reflect the resignation and desperation of many Obamacare opponents who have given up hope of a government repeal or court-ordered injunction to stop full implementation of the law beginning next year.
This is clearly an important stage in the larger fight. Desperate right-wing activists know the law won't be repealed; they know it can't be stopped in the courts; and they know there's a limit to Republican efforts to sabotage the federal health care system. So they've been reduced to one last-ditch effort: convince people with no health care coverage to voluntarily turn down affordable insurance so as to advance their ideological cause.
And why do conservative activists want this? It's not altogether clear, exactly, but apparently their hatred for President Obama has overwhelmed their judgment and basic sense of morality to a degree that can only be considered alarming.
Twila Brase, for example, is putting the "Refuse to Enroll" campaign on her radio show, which is "broadcast on more than 350 stations nationwide, including the American Family Radio Network with stations throughout Ohio." And she'll have lots of company, including support from her Koch brothers allies.
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which has a chapter in Ohio, has launched another campaign attacking Obamacare with television and online ads that began airing in Ohio last week.
Joan McCarter summarized this nicely: conservatives "have to convince people that either paying through the nose for insurance or going without, all to make a political point, makes sense. Because 'Freedom' means never being able to go to the doctor. Seriously. They are spending millions of dollars to try to con people out of getting affordable health insurance."
To reiterate what we discussed last week, I hope folks will pause to let this sink in for a moment. Unlike every other industrialized democracy on the planet, the United States -- easily the wealthiest nation on earth -- has tolerated a significant chunk of its population going without basic health care coverage. These Americans and their families can't afford to see a doctor and are one serious illness from financial ruin. Many have died because they live in a country that allows people to go without access to basic care.
After nearly a century of politicians talking about the problem, President Obama actually signed the Affordable Care Act into law three years ago, giving working families a level of health-care security they've never had before, and throwing a life preserver to the uninsured. Now, Republicans aren't just actively trying to sabotage the law, they're telling struggling Americans it's better to drown than accept the life preserver.